Over the past month, I have had 3 chances to stop all my planning, striving, and doing — and simply rest. Two I asked for; one I didn’t.
At the grounds of the Trappist monastery where I withdrew last weekend, the only sounds were the birds, and the bells that called the monks to the chanting of prayers.
While I went there to write, the silent weekend was a respite from everything else: tending the family, cooking and cleaning, socializing, worrying over other people’s feelings, responding to emails, and advancing items on my to-do list.
The experience was so soul-filling that the next week I reserved a day at a nearby silent retreat center. For only $25, I could walk the fields of wildflowers, lie on a blanket in the sun, read yellowed books I plucked off the shelves, make tea, and eat my lunch under a tree.
Our productivity-oriented society does not value rest as an essential component of a happy, balanced, and yes, productive life. But our ancestors knew that, to enjoy the greatest fruits from the earth, fields should be allowed to lie fallow. For a year, do nothing. Allow and receive the sun and the rain, the nutrients and organisms from below, replenishing and restoring the natural balance.
We can get so focused on producing that we forget to receive. We forget that don’t have to do it all. We can allow ourselves to be held in the infinite wisdom and power of the Universe, the trees and the birds, the stars and the sky.
It’s not even necessary to retreat for a whole weekend to receive the clarity and renewal of rest. The concept can be applied in micro-doses. Turn off wi-fi sometimes. Take breaks by walking outside and bathing in the sunshine. Put projects away for as long as you can, so you can re-see them later with deeper eyes.
The natural order of things show us that not-doing is just as essential as doing: animals cannot function without the restoration of sleep; summer cannot bloom without the deep rest of winter.
Let’s remember our kinship with the butterflies and brown bears — not the factories and cell phones that men have devised. Let us be the earth that produces bounty beyond measure: to do this, we must also lie fallow, and receive.